Robotic Integration in Rehabilitation: Innovation for Effective Recovery

robótica en la rehabilitación

In recent years, robotics has emerged as a promising technology in the field of rehabilitation. This discipline combines engineering, materials science, and medicine to develop robotic systems and devices that aid in the rehabilitation process for individuals with physical and neurological disabilities. Robotics in rehabilitation has become a rapidly growing area of research and has shown a significant impact on the lives of numerous patients worldwide.

Previously, rehabilitation was primarily based on manual therapies and traditional exercises, but the introduction of robotics has revolutionized this field. Technological advances have allowed for the design and development of sophisticated robotic devices that can perform specific tasks and adapt to the individual needs of each patient.

Advantages of Robotics in Rehabilitation

The incorporation of robotics into rehabilitation programs has indeed provided various advantages for both patients and healthcare professionals. Some of these advantages include:

  • Precision and Control: Robotic devices enable precise and repeatable control of movements, making it easier to assess and monitor each patient’s progress. Additionally, the accuracy of exercises performed by robots helps prevent additional injuries and maximizes therapeutic benefits.
  • Personalization and Adaptability: Robotic systems can adapt to the specific needs of each patient, allowing for personalized and efficient rehabilitation. Therapists can adjust parameters such as resistance, speed, and range of motion to match the individual’s skill level and ability.
  • Motor and Sensory Stimulation: Robotic devices can provide additional motor and sensory stimulation during rehabilitation sessions. This capability can help improve coordination, balance, and proprioception, which is beneficial for the recovery of lost motor skills.
  • Feedback and Motivation: Robotic systems are often equipped with interactive interfaces that provide real-time feedback on the patient’s performance. This helps patients understand their progress and motivates them to continue with their rehabilitation treatment. Inrobics Rehab Clinic and Inrobics Rehab Home (Virtual), the solutions developed by Inrobics that adapt to both clinical centers and homes. The first one is comprised of the Robic robot, a Nao model with its own software, an application for session configuration, an Artificial Intelligence system, and a 3D sensor. The second one has the same components but replaces the robot with a virtual avatar. Inrobics’ solutions are an example of the use of robotics for rehabilitation in Spain.

Evidence and Results of Robotics in Rehabilitation

The application of robotics in rehabilitation has been supported by numerous scientific studies. The evidence shows that the use of robotic devices can improve motor function, muscle strength, and functional independence in individuals with physical and neurological disabilities, including conditions such as strokes, spinal cord injuries, Parkinson‘s disease, and cerebral palsy. For example, you can refer to the study linked here on robot-assisted upper limb rehabilitation for patients with subacute stroke.

For example, you can refer to the study linked here on robot-assisted upper limb rehabilitation for patients with subacute stroke. Similarly, it has been observed that robotic therapy can accelerate recovery, reduce rehabilitation time, and improve the quality of life for patients.

These encouraging results support the ongoing integration of robotics into rehabilitation programs, providing new opportunities for recovery and overcoming physical limitations.

Examples of Robotic Devices and Applications in Rehabilitation

Currently, robotics in rehabilitation encompasses a wide range of devices and systems designed to assist and enhance the recovery process for patients. These devices are tailored to the specific needs of each individual and focus on restoring motor function while promoting independence. Here are brief descriptions of some common types of robotic devices used in rehabilitation:

Robotic Exoskeletons:

These are external mechanical structures placed on a patient’s body to provide support and assistance in movements. Robotic exoskeletons are primarily used in cases of spinal cord injuries and strokes to help patients regain the ability to walk and improve limb strength and coordination.

Robotic Prosthetics

Robotic prostheses are devices designed to replace a part of the body that has been amputated. These devices connect directly to the nervous system and use sensors and actuators to enable more natural control and functionality. Advances in robotics have significantly improved the mobility and ability to perform daily tasks for individuals with amputations.

Limb Rehabilitation Systems

These devices focus on rehabilitating the upper and lower extremities. They can range from industrial robots adapted with special interfaces to compact and portable devices. These systems help patients perform specific exercises to promote the recovery of strength and coordination in affected limbs.

Brain-Computer Interfaces

This intriguing form of robotic rehabilitation enables direct communication between the brain and a robotic device through interfaces. By capturing brain signals with electrodes placed on the scalp or directly in the brain, patients can control robotic devices with their minds. This technology has been used in the rehabilitation of brain injuries and has shown promise in restoring mobility and function in paralyzed patients.

Therapeutic Robots

As described in the example of the Inrobics Rehab Clinic platform, robots and platforms are used to customize movement therapy for each patient. The humanoid interacts with the patient and encourages them to perform exercises. The therapist is not replaced by the robot but instead programs and supervises each session in person or remotely. The robot’s performance aims to create a fun and motivating experience for the patient.

Virtual Reality and Therapeutic Games

Although not robotic devices themselves, virtual reality and therapeutic games have been integrated with robotics in rehabilitation to make it more interactive and motivating. These technologies allow patients to engage in virtual environments that mimic real-life situations, promoting the practice of functional movements and facilitating recovery.

Prominent Examples of Robotic Rehabilitation Applications

  • ReWalk: This robotic exoskeleton enables individuals with lower limb paralysis to walk again. It uses sensors and motors to detect balance changes and provide the necessary assistance for safe walking.
  • Bebionic: An advanced robotic hand prosthesis that offers a wide range of movements and functionality similar to a human hand. Integrated sensors detect residual muscle movements to control different grips and prosthetic hand movements.
  • RehaMove: This functional electrical stimulation (FES) device is used in the rehabilitation of individuals with spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson‘s disease, among other conditions. It stimulates nerves with electrical currents through surface electrodes, causing muscle contractions. The purpose is to generate functional movement in impaired limbs and train muscles even if voluntary control has been partially or completely lost.

Inrobics is also innovating in therapeutic robotics

As you can see, these are just a few examples of how robotics has been applied in rehabilitation. The list continues to grow as new technologies and devices are developed.

On our part, at Inrobics, we are innovating in the use of robotics for rehabilitation through a model that integrates artificial intelligence and social robots to assist individuals with functional or neurological limitations in improving their quality of life. Simultaneously, our app allows the control and configuration of the session with the robot, providing a real-time dashboard with information on the user’s progress. Furthermore, our platform is cloud-based, enabling its use in rehabilitation centers or in the user’s own home, following a personalized treatment plan prescribed by their regular therapist.

Picture of Fernando Fernández

Fernando Fernández

Full Professor in the Department of Computer Science at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) since October 2005 and former CEO of Adact Solution, SL. He has received various awards and grants, such as the predoctoral FPU fellowship from the Ministry of Education (MEC) and the MEC-Fulbright postdoctoral fellowship. In 2020, he was honored with one of the JPMorgan AI Research Awards. He has published more than 50 articles in journals and conferences in the field of AI. Since July 2022, he is on sabbatical as a Visiting Researcher at Texas Robotics, University of Texas at Austin, conducting his research and laying the groundwork for internationalization. A distinguished professional with solid international training and experience in technology and innovation. He is driven by the desire to apply rigorous scientific methods to develop and validate innovative solutions in the health and technology sectors.